Saturday, July 13, 2013

THE "BEFORE" SERIES: The Ballad of Jesse and Celine

July 13, 2013

I have heard about this movie series for a very long time, and I know it has a multitude of devoted fans. I do not exactly like watching romance movies, so I did not really feel the need to watch this. However, with the coming release of the third installment this month, and all the fervid anticipation for it, I finally relented and watched the first film, and then unexpectedly, the saga of Jessie and Celine actually got me hooked.  


An American guy Jesse meets a French girl Celine on a train from Budapest to Paris, and hit if off, having a great conversation going between them. When Jesse had to get off at Vienna to catch a plane to the States early next morning, he suddenly asks Celine if she would join him in his last night in Europe so they can continue their talking. Celine impulsively agrees, and the two talk about life and love all night long, meeting some odd characters along the way, until the sunrise broke and they had to go their own ways, vowing to meet up again in that same train station after six months.

I have to admit it was not too easy for me to get into it at the start. However, maybe the charm of Celine and Jesse, thanks to the very realistic performances of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, drew me in and got me listening to their endless stream of conversation. The refreshing spontaneity of Celine as portrayed by Delpy had me beguiled. She is completely believable as a girl Jesse fell completely in love at first sight with.

Kudos to the script by Director Richard Linklater for the natural flow and glow of words and ideas that people can relate to, succeeding to rivet the attention of even the most jaded of viewers to a movie that is nothing else but conversation between two people. The final scene of goodbye at the train station was very effective as a cliffhanger of sorts. Now I know why people were so excited when "Before Sunset" was released in 2004, nine years after the first film. 7/10


I just finished watching "Before Sunrise" and I am glad I do not have to wait nine years to find out what happened to the love story of Celine and Jesse in "Before Sunset".

Jesse is now a successful author after he wrote a novel about his very special encounter with Celine we all watched in "Before Sunrise." He was doing a book tour in Europe and the last stop happened to be Paris. It just so happened that the book signing was a bookshop which was also Celine's favorite. 

Of course they meet, and then went around Paris the rest of the afternoon until Jesse's plane will be leaving at sunset. As with the first film, we see them talking about how their lives went since that fateful day in Vienna years back. 

Julie Delpy (as Celine) did not age too much, but Ethan Hawke (as Jesse) looked significantly older. But the years did not diminish their chemistry with each other. The script by Richard Linklater this time was shorter, more sober, with deeper issues and mature emotion now, compared to the first one which was generally lighter, whimsical, with palpable youthful vibrancy. The transition over the years was perfectly reflected in the words they spoke. Again, we are drawn deep into their conversations and their sentiments, until that open, puzzling yet charming final scene. 8/10


I watched "Before Midnight" almost right after I watched "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset." The effect of seeing Jesse and Celine almost two decades after that fateful initial train ride to Vienna is just so strong. I can just imagine the experience for those who had seen the three films in real time, like reuniting with old friends after every nine years.

In "Before Midnight," Jesse and Celine are now living together with 7-year old twin daughters. They are spending a long vacation in rustic Greece with Jesse's writer friends, and they are at the tail end of that holiday. 

At this point in their lives, Jesse (looking so much older than his 41 years) is saddled with guilt because he wants to spend more time with his son who lives with his mom in Chicago. Celine on the other hand is deciding whether to get back into the work force with an offer she calls her "dream job.'

The couple were given a free night to spend at a seaside hotel on their last night. And, as the previous two movies went, Jesse and Celine did a lot of talking in this film. But the talk here was definitely more mature, going from funny to poignant to painful, and every word felt so true.

Couples who watch this together will most likely re-examine their own relationships. I am pretty sure many of the things you will hear spoken between Jesse and Celine you have heard in your own conversations with your spouse, specially those who have been married for more than ten years or so. You may even want to watch this by yourself first so you can reflect on your own marriage. The message is so direct to the point and frank, it can be so uncomfortable to hear in its familiarity.

The ending again is so open. The audience is invited to give their own ending, as before. Director and head writer Richard Linklater succeeds once again in bringing our old friends back to us, as charming and as vital as ever. Ethan Hawke and especially the luminous Julie Delpy shine and enthrall us like always with their natural and realistic performances, this time with raw and devastating honesty. 

Will this be the last chapter of their love story? I guess we just have to wait nine more years. 9/10


  1. I'm yet to see "Before Midnight" and I'm equally scared and excited to see the conclude of that film. The first two are one of my favorite romantic films. I love how they left with "Sunset" when after listening to Celine's song, Jesse realizes they were such idiots and they should've been together all along.

    Great reviews!

    1. *The first two are two of my favorite romantic films.

      Stupid typo. -_-

  2. I am glad you gave a movie of review of the three movies... I am yet to watch the third instalment of the movie. I love the first two movies.. With your review, I can't wait to watch " Before Midnight:...

  3. Oh my goodness, give me a slice of Ethan Hawke anytime! I love him as an actor, and I loved Before Sunrise and Before Sunset! Can't wait to watch Before Midnight

  4. Thank you so much for the review! Same with the other, the installments are two of my favorite movies. I must watch the third one soon!

  5. I heard about this series too before and I am now more intrigued to watch all three titles and see the unique story telling about Jessie and Celine and how their love transcended through the years.

  6. I have not seen any of these movies though the storylines you mentioned sound appealing. Wait 9 years? Whoa haha that's a long time.

  7. I loved BEFORE MIDNIGHT depicts the realities of a REAL LIFE relationship. Yes, it can be a bit scary and I must admit that I got a bit paranoid but it gives you realizations and, finally, seeing things on a 3rd person perspective, which makes you think about things and how you might have, somehow, handled your past relationships badly. lol